In cooking, the adjective al dente describes pasta and (less commonly) rice that has been cooked so as to be firm but not hard. "Al dente" also describes vegetables that are cooked to the "tender crisp" phase - still offering resistance to the bite, but cooked through. It is often considered to be the ideal form of cooked pasta. Keeping the pasta firm is especially important in baked or "al forno" pasta dishes. The term comes from Italian and means "to the tooth" or "to the bite", referring to the need to chew the pasta due to its firmness.